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Trinity Sunday May 27, 2018 - The Rev. Samuel Torvend
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Sermon for May 27, 2018 Solemnity of the Holy Trinity
 
There are times when I hear adult Christians claim that the ritual of baptismal renewal or being sprinkled with baptismal water - hold little if any meaning. ”I was baptized as an infant,” they say, “and since I have no memory of that action, it holds little value for me today as an adult.” Well, let’s think about that claim for just a moment. I wonder: who among us has any memory of our birth, any consciousness of that moment when we entered this world screaming and gasping for breath? And yet many if not most of are eager to celebrate what we cannot remember with a birthday party and are delighted to receive good wishes on the anniversary of our birth. Why you can stand before the assembly in this church as God’s blessing is invoked on an event of which you and I really have no consciousness. And so I wonder: if you and I have no memory of something done to or for us, can we conclude that it holds no significance?
 
I think the culprit here might be this: since, as some say, I didn’t make the decision to be baptized in infancy, why should I be concerned with it now as an adult? After all, someone else made that choice for me. I had no vote. I was not consulted. As one friend said to me not long ago, “They should have waited until I could make a mature decision on my own.” I love that notion - “mature” decision - as if there were a particular age when one reaches maturity. So, yes, you’re right. Many of us had no vote in being baptized as infant - just as you and I had no vote in being born; no vote on our gender; no consultation on the race or ethnicity one might prefer. But, then you see - in our neck of the woods - in the Anglican neck of the woods, the first thing that concerns us is not any decision you or I would make for God or Jesus or the church or this household of faith. Rather, it is what God does for you and me in the words and water of the font, what God gives to you and me at the altar with no questions asked. And that which God does and that which God gives, I say is a dangerous thing. “Dangerous,” you say? A cute baby or a willing adult getting sprinkled or dunked in water; a fragment of bread and a sip of wine: How could any of that be dangerous?
 
As a boy of six or seven, I sensed that there was something different about me. I couldn’t name what it was but I could feel it. And, then, by the time I reached puberty, it became clear to me that I was not interested in girls to the same degree as were my male friends. That lack of interest was keenly sensed by some of my schoolmates who were aggressive bullies - a skill they learned from their fathers and their mothers.
 
Indeed, I hold the vivid memory of a neighbor, the father of a classmate, telling me in the presence of his son,how shameful it was that I had not tried out for the football team as had his son. “What’s the matter with you, Sam?” he barked at me. “Don’t you know that football is where real men are made?”
 
To this day, I can remember the incredible pressure to conform to what were socially acceptable traits in high school and the rejection that would swiftly take place if one were perceived as different. Perhaps some of you know the experience of keeping a secret as best you can for fear that if the truth were known, your life would change and change for the worse. Such fear can lead to the terrible practice of striving to fit in, can lead to a deadening conformity, can lead to conflict avoidance, can provoke that most ungodly of questions asked by many people in this world: “What must I do to justify my existence in a society that thinks me second class or profoundly damaged?”
 
And yet for me, a young gay teenager, there was this: the annual celebration of my baptismal day, the feast of St John the Baptist, and the sweet knowledge that the Holy Three had washed me into their life - that the Creator of the universe, and the Savior whose one name is Love, and the Spirit who breathes life where no good life seems possible - that this holy presence was with me and for me, a radiating presence in the midst of fear, bullies, and rejection.
 
And there was this: the recognition that God had chosen to dwell with me - as I was and as I would become - long before, long before, anyone knew how I would turn out - for you must know that the temptation to divide people into who is acceptable and unacceptable is so robustly alive in our culture. You see, this is what matters: that God the Holy Three acts in your life and mine before - before - anyone can make a decision as to who is in and who is out in this world. I say that being washed at the font and then fed at the altar with the life of God is a dangerous thing, a dangerous thing, for there are those who would prefer to wait and see if this person or that person “measures up” to a “code of conduct” or a “set of norms” that, in truth, has nothing - nothing - to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
This is why the act of baptizing and communing freely - which is the action of the Holy Three - is so astonishing, for it is an action that subverts and resists the human temptation to diminish, degrade, or discriminate against that which God has created, has created in love. I mean, if you want to be a part of a churchy club devoid of the diversity that is at the heart of God’s triune life, then you’re in luck: because there are loads of Christian communities in this city that speak of love yet a love circumscribed by a restrictive code of holiness, of purity, of who is valued in the eyes of God and who is not.  
 
But you and I, dear sisters and brothers, we are here, in all our wonderful imperfections and failings and goodness and diverse affections, gathered into this one hope: that God does not send the Son into our lives to condemn ... but rather … to save, to heal, and to make whole.